“Our people are the most important asset of any organisation”, is probably one of the most over-used and under-believed statements in the business world today. Many companies spend all of their efforts and energy to expand and improve the customer experience, but companies forget that employees will determine what customers experience, and if they’re not engaged and motivated, the experience will not have the desired effect.

Added to engagement, companies also face complex goals where they are required to provide customers with differentiated experiences, while the cost of delivering the experience should be reduced. Companies are expected to be efficient and show growth, while continuing to manage the bottom line and keep costs down. Technology and the rise of social media is a factor which could be used to drive efficiency, but it should be done without sacrificing the personal connection to customers, employees and other stakeholders. There is, however, one common element that enables organisations to move forward in this complex environment, and that is people.

Employee engagement can be the master key that unlocks business performance. Successive research exercises over the past five or six years have shown that, without engagement, companies will fail to create a sustainable competitive advantage on a continuous basis (Pickard, 2009).

Employees want to invest their skills and knowledge in the organisation and assist it to grow. But few organisations are using employee engagement as a tool to drive business performance.

According to Towers Perrin, employee engagement refers to the broad and deep connections ...

people have with an organisation. Engagement plays a critical role in any business environment, but it takes on a special significance when an economic downturn makes every sale precious and every rand saved a rand truly earned. An engaged group of employees gives an organisation the power it needs to climb back the hill to prosperity and to make that climb faster than the competition. Employee engagement encompasses three dimensions:

Rational - How well do employees understand their roles and responsibilities?

Emotional - How much passion are they bringing to their work and their organisations?

Motivational - How willing are they to invest discretionary effort in order to perform well within their roles?

Employee engagement approaches can help companies deal with

the challenges of the recession through establishing mutual trust. This trust can potentially unlock more of the knowledge and commitment of individual employees. One example would be developing ways of performing tasks more effectively and efficiently. Engagement can enable organisations to retain the employees' support while taking and implementing difficult decisions (Noakes, 2009).

There are various factors that impact on engagement. In order to engage effectively with employees, all the factors should be taken into consideration. These factors will impact on the effectiveness of engagement and business performance.

The factors which may impact on employee engagement include; communication (internal and organisational), work (work tasks, sense of accomplishment, resources and empowerment), rewards (pay, benefits and recognition), opportunities (learning and development), quality of life (work/life balance, work environment and work culture), company practices (people/HR practices, performance management and reputation) and people (leadership, manager, people focus, loyalty and customers).

According to Woodruffe (2006) there are 10 optimum manners in which to engage your employees:

1. Get a public statement of commitment from the chief executive and the board on the importance of retaining talent by developing good people management practices.

2. Ensure that all line managers take on this culture of talent retention. Ensure that they understand that this is a core part of the organisation’s business strategy to win in its marketplace.

3. Treat every member of your staff as an individual. Find out what his or her needs are at work, and give careful thought to meeting them.

4. Ensure that your managers are supported and coach their people management skills.

5. Carry out regular employee satisfaction audits.

6. Take scrupulous care to ensure that you hire talented people to whom you can offer a commitment.

7. Don’t destroy the trust of your employees with a “hire-and-fire” mentality.

8. Be absolutely sure to develop your people, which, in turn increases their worth to your company.

9. Challenge any reasons your organisation has for not being flexible and responsive to your people’s needs.

10. Carefully identify your core talent so that you invest scarce resources on developing these people.

The challenge for companies to engage successfully with employees is to recognise the value of employees’ untapped potential and to channel it in ways that yield real improvements in business performance. Turning employees’ energy and ambition into engagement demands attention, focus and clear follow-through on organisational practices.

Although there is no “right” model for successful engagement, employees will invest more to help their companies succeed if they see the return in their investment, whether that return be a work/life balance or better career opportunities.


About the author:

Gerinda Jooste currently holds the position of New Business Development manager at Trinitas Consulting. No novice to the media industry, she has worked as a journalist, and went on to become a magazine editor, prior to her current employment at Trinitas. Subsequent to joining the team as Communications Manager in 2009, Gerinda has recently completed her MBA. Her dissertation was on the topic of Effective Stakeholder Engagement.

Issued by Trinitas Consulting (Pty) Ltd:

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